Life of an Illustrator


Ramblings in my house

Nixie is my youngest of five. She has three dads, in the form of cats, and one mom, in the form of Brownie, my highly intelligent street special dog, who has a lot of German Shepard in her. Nixie, according to the vet, has whippet. A breed usually known to be timid, shy, and have their tails in between their legs a lot when in public spaces. Nixie is none of these things.

To give you an idea of her personality, we left her inside (when I went to yoga class, or nipped out an hour or so). At first it was fine. Then she started chewing on things from the bin. But for weeks it was never anything that couldn’t be fixed, or moved before leaving. Until we came home and open the door to an artistic madness. She had found a brown bag, containing a few oil paints from Deckle Edge. Out of the three primary colours, she had decided that the red was her favorite. She promptly chewed the tube, digesting half the paint, smearing pinky red paint all over her face, paws and carpet. She also chewed the oil paper. It took my husband and I an hour to remove the oil paint from the carpet with turpentine. She, on the other had, had no issues at all from eating the paint. Continue Reading

5 Top March Projects

Project Header March

There is so much going on right now, I thought it would be a good idea to do a blog post on some of the projects I am working on. At a later point, I’ll do another one with updates, so that you can all join in on the progress. Don’t forget to book for the Creative Workshop in April. Also I’ll be making an appearance at The Deer Little Market (details below).

1. Katya Cat at The Deer Little Market – 20th of March 2016

Deer Market IllustrationAuthor, Julia Richman, of Katya Cat – The Bacon Chase, and I will be reading and illustrating at The Deer Little Market on Sunday the 20th March, at 2 Deer Park Drive, adjacent to Deerpark Cafe, Vredehoek, Cape Town. The market is open at 9am to 1pm. I will have to get back to you when Julia and I are presenting. There will be stalls and entertainment for little ones, as well as a magic show later in the day, so make a note in your calendar. Julia will be reading a few chapters while I illustrate the characters and we shall be handing out simple drawings for all little ones to colour in as well. There will be copies of Katya Cat for sale. Continue Reading

Mike Boldt Children Books & Illustration

Mike Boldt Illustrator

The ‘D’ is silent

Celeste: Welcome Mike, to my blog! Before we get started, can you tell my readers a little about yourself?

Mike: Thanks Celeste. I appreciate the invite and opportunity. I live in the beautiful countryside just outside Edmonton, Alberta, where I’ve lived most my life enjoying comics, cartoons, sports, and ice cream. I also love creating stories and drawing and have been doing so for as long as I can remember. Professionally, I’ve been working in as an illustrator for over 16 years working almost exclusively on products for children.

I Don't Want to be a Frog
I Don’t Want to be a Frog

Celeste: You style varies a lot, from realist to very stylised work. Can you tell us what your favourite project has been so far?

Mike:  I have a couple favorites. Recently, it would be the I Don’t Want to be a Frog book, by Dev Petty, as well as my next book, A Tiger Tail. Both those books were such a natural delight to work on – which also helps having an incredible editing team that I really connected with. I should add that when I have time for it, I love doing personal doodles. I should really try to make more time for those.

Celeste: Not only are you a creative illustrator, but you’ve also been published as an author. How does it feel to be on the ‘other side’ as a writer?

Mike: It’s a very different approach to a project for sure. Drawing comes very naturally for me, where writing does not. When I get a manuscript that someone else has written, most of the hardest work has been done. As an illustrator, I get a lot of ideas and concepts I’d like to do or write. But an idea or simple concept is nowhere near a finished story. Writing a great story is the most difficult thing I have come up against, but something I also enjoy immensely. Continue Reading

Whimsical Illustrator – Shirley Ng-Benitez

Shirley Illustrator

My inspiration are my kids and nature.

Celeste: Hi Shirley! Thank so much for chatting with us today. I must say I love your work – it is very whimsical! Can you tell us a little about yourself, before I start bombarding you with questions!

Shirley: Hi Celeste! You are so kind to ask and thank you for your generous words, I really appreciate that! I am a children’s book illustrator and writer living in the Bay Area, California and have been illustrating for the children’s market for about five years. I made the transition to illustration in 2011 from many years in the graphic design field. I started out after college working for American Greetings, Inc. as a Professional Lettering Artist, and then worked for different design firms specializing in the toy industry, direct marketing, product marketing, and technology. I continue to work with my clients in design through, my company established in ‘98. Continue Reading

South African Illustrator: Sam van Riet

Sam van Riet

Sam van Riet is a South African illustrator, with 20 years of experience. She chats to us about how things have changed since she started, and her latest projects.

Celeste: Hi Sam, and welcome to the blog. Thanks for taking time out to answer my questions. I thought it would be nice to have a local (South African) artist interview on my blog.  First of all, can you just tell us a little about yourself and your experience?

Sam: I studied graphic design and then Illustration at Stellenbosch university. I was lucky to have Niki Daly and Paddy Bouma as lecturers, so studying was a great experience for me. Since then I have worked as a freelance illustrator for about 20 years.
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Making Beastie Pots

Beastie Pots

‘Someone bought one of your pots’

My Cat, Toady, with Alex
My Cat, Toady, with Alex

As far as Cape Town is concerned, it is out of season. Summer is also in full bloom, so it is isn’t the best time to plant either. Basically, my timing over-all is really, really bad. Yet, the wonderful, friendly lady at Kalk Bay Garden Shop uttered the words I have been waiting for her to say in two weeks ‘Someone bought one of your pots.’

I dashed outside and did a quick head count. There was Fred, Alfred, Werner, Alex, Sam, Lizzie, Edward…. yes, yes she was right – someone had snatched up Henry. I’ve been smiling from ear to ear! While I was there I did a little swop with some of the pots, as a few of them needed some hair-cuts since they’ve been at the Kalk Bay Garden Shop. One of the swops was with one of my favourite pots, Charles, who is now sitting on the shelf giggling to all that pass.

I thought it might be a nice idea to share with all of you, the work  that goes into making a Beastie pot. If you are interested in making one yourself, I am thinking of running a workshop later this year on it, where you can make your own. Drop me an email (mrsbeckerling(at)gmail(dot)com) if you are interested.
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Renee Kurilla talks Illustration

Renee Kurilla

I first saw Renee on Twitter and was blown away by her illustrations. But then ‘bumped’ into her again on the Oatley Podcast where it was so strange to hear her voice! I knew I had to chat to her about her unique style.


Celeste: Hi Renee! Thanks so much for taking time out to talk to me. I’ve been following/stalking you on Twitter for a while now and I really love your work. The original illustration of your that caught my eye was the one of the artist, twirling her paintbrush like a wand. I remember you saying you used pen and watercolour for it? How do you manage to keep the colours so clean when bringing to digital?

Renee: Haha, thanks Celeste! Firstly, I wish it was acceptable for me to use an “ou” in the word color – it looks so much more appealing (and fancier) than the American way of spelling it!

Thanks so much for your kind words. The piece you mentioned was actually quite a breakthrough piece for me. I’ve been trying for years to mimic a watercolor style on the computer and I think I finally hit it with this one. The line is done with a Prismacolor colored pencil, scanned and colored in Photoshop. This explains why it looks so clean.

I have yet to master the fine art of scanning, my watercolors always look so muddy and boring when I scan them in, so I was able to transition it almost entirely to digital.
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Leap Puppies

It all started with a bulldog.

Bulldog on swing

This bulldog was on a swing and he was not happy. The caption was ‘I hope you are entertained hooman,’ and it made me laugh. Having grown up with bulldogs, however, I knew there was so much more potential for a bulldog to be on a swing. I could just imaging the wind blowing in on a bulldog’s jowls. I could see a green meadow in the back ground.

Which got me think about dogs and I got a surge to draw them. When thinking about what dogs to draw, I immediately thought of my own two, Brownie and Nixie, who are both rescues. We actually got Nixie only at the end of last year, from an amazing adoption service called Leaps. I wandered over to Leap’s facebook page and saw all these gorgeous dogs that needed homes. Of course, I immediately got my sketch book out.

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Emily Hare Illustrations

Emily Hare

My name is Emily Hare and I am an Artist and creator.

Celeste: First of all, thank you so much for letting me interview for the blog. It’s a real honour! I love the name of your studio ‘Waving Monster.’* Can you tell us a little about where it comes from and how it started?

Emily: Hi Celeste, you’re very welcome! It’s lovely to be asked.

The studio name was really invented because I didn’t want to use my own name up front as I thought that something unique that wasn’t a name, would be more memorable. I can’t actually remember how I came up with it now, but it does bring up an immediate image in one’s head, and hopefully, that means people will remember it!

Digital Work in Progress
Digital Work in Progress

Celeste: You work is mostly in digital format. Can you us us the technical information about what you use? Do you use a cintiq or a Intuos (pen/tablet connected to PC)? And do you sketch first in pencil/pen and scan in, or do you go straight at it in digital?

Emily: I grew up and spent years working in traditional media, but in 2004 I started playing around with digital art and got hooked. I now prefer to use digital for commercial projects as they are easier and faster to edit. I use an iMac and a 22HD Cintiq, however I used to use a regular Intuos tablet too (where you don’t draw directly onto it) and that was great, I don’t think it’s necessary to have a Cintiq, but it certainly is handy if you came from traditional media as it feels more natural. My preferred software is Photoshop, but sometimes I’ll use Manga Studio for sketching. If I’m going to be doing a final painting digitally, I always start digitally too.
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Jane Heinrich – Illustrator, Mom, Author & Inspiration

Jane Heinrich

Jane has been an illustrator for seven years and has worked with clients such as Penguin Random House, Magination Press, OUP, Cambridge and Pearson Education to name a few. Some of her books are Mattie’s Magical Dreamworld, Magic at the Museum and How I learn. She is based in England, but has strong ties in South Africa.

Butterflies by Jane Heinrich
Butterflies by Jane Heinrich

Celeste: First of all, tell me about the day that you first broke into the industry. Where were you, what was the push that got the publisher to notice you, what was the book…?

Jane: I feel like I’ve been breaking in the industry, little by little, for the past decade. I started illustrating when I was an undergrad student in Canada. I did a joint major in art history and classics and had a part time job as a personal assistant for my archaeology professor. One day she asked me if I knew anyone in the art department who would be able to do simple ink drawings of some ancient funerary monuments for a publication. I told her that I was sure I could do it, and from that day my job changed from PA to illustrator. I worked with her for the remainder of my degree, and for several years after I graduated. I even went on digs in North Africa, and drew all the excavations and finds. It was then that I realized that illustration was my passion.

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